An independent investigator has concluded that Miami Dolphins football players Richie Incognito, John Jerry, and Mike Pouncey subjected teammate Jonathan Martin and others to severe bullying and abuse, including repeated racial slurs and sexually explicit remarks.
In the wake of the widely-reported accounts last fall centering on Incognito and Martin, the NFL retained attorney Ted Wells and his law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton, & Garrison, to conduct an independent investigation into charges that Incognito had repeatedly bullied and harassed Martin to the point where Martin left the team. The investigation revealed more actors and a wider scope of misconduct. Here’s the heart of a news release from the law firm, dated today:
Paul, Weiss has conducted a comprehensive investigation, aided by full cooperation from the NFL, the National Football League Players Association and the Miami Dolphins. Paul, Weiss reviewed thousands of voluntarily produced documents, including text messages, emails and team policies, and completed more than 100 interviews, including interviews of all Dolphins players and coaches, key front office personnel, and the team’s owner and chairman.
Said Mr. Wells: “The Report concludes that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. The Report finds that the assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language; that the other offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching; and that Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments.”
“The Report rejects any suggestion that Martin manufactured claims of abuse after the fact to cover up an impetuous decision to leave the team. Contemporaneous text messages that Martin sent to his parents and others months before he left the Dolphins—which have never before been made public—corroborate his account that the persistent harassment by his teammates caused him significant emotional distress. The Report concludes that the harassment by Martin’s teammates was a contributing factor in his decision to leave the team, but also finds that Martin’s teammates did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury,” said Mr. Wells.
For a pdf of the complete, 140+ page report, go here.
In legal terms, it’s worth noting that racial and sexual harassment violate employment discrimination laws, whereas “pure” bullying, unconnected to legally protected classes such as race, sex, religion, age, or disability, remains largely legal. This is why we need to be steadfast in advocating for the Healthy Workplace Bill and other measures to address bullying at work.